Religion is a social institution that binds people together by beliefs, practices, and traditions. It also helps people understand their world, and gives them a sense of purpose.
The Latin root religio means “to bind.” It’s often used to describe the belief that one or more divine beings are responsible for the fate of all human life. There are millions of people around the world who follow the principles of their chosen religion.
A social concept
Many social scientists view religion as an organized and integrated set of beliefs, behaviors, and norms that are centered on basic needs and values. They recognize that religious institutions are found in all societies.
Social scientists examine religion as an institution that teaches people about the meaning of their lives, encourages them to share their beliefs, and helps them feel connected to others. It also promotes psychological and physical health, as well as social cohesion and stability.
Definitions of religion
As a field of research, sociology has been challenged to develop adequate definitions of religion that are responsive to the wide range of material available for investigation. Moreover, the various theories of religion must be evaluated in light of their practical relevance for understanding the way in which religion shapes people’s lives.
The most useful approach to religion is to rely on a variety of empirical and historical methods. Such methods can reveal a religion’s concreteness, its historical creativity, and its significance for the culture, society, and individual lives with which it is interwoven. These methodologies can then be used to develop a more appropriate conceptualization of religion that is a productive tool for analyzing the role of religion in social history.